AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

March 16, 2010 19:03 rlanctot

Nokia, BMW and Daimler highlighted mobile phone integration in their Geneva Motor Show announcements this month. But each company took a different path with its own merits and shortcomings. The most flexible solution was shown by Daimler, but the BMW and Nokia solutions will influence future integration decisions.

 

The solutions – two iPhone-based and one Nokia specific - reflect the three fundamental paths to integration. Nokia’s terminal mode emphasizes leveraging the vehicle human machine interface via a bi-directional data exchange that transfers the device display into the vehicle head unit; hands control of the device over to the vehicle HMI; and makes use of vehicle CAN data for contextual feedback to the driver.

 

The BMW Mini iPhone integration puts iPhone applications, most notably Internet radio from RadioTimes, behind a large-screen embedded interface. Availability of this new connected solution is unclear, although the implication is that additional functions will ultimately be enabled and the vehicle HMI – in particular, a multidirectional, finger-sized toggle – will allow the driver to interact with phone-based applications without touching the phone.

 

The Daimler solution, offered for its Smart cars, is the closest to market – due this summer with a $400 price tag – and represents the most elaborate offering. It is also a third path to integration, providing a dash mounted iPhone holder with a suite of automotive applications – the first such suite developed by an OEM. Daimler has even gone so far as to customize the on-device interface with larger fonts and buttons.

 

Among the big differences between the Daimler integration solution and the competing offerings is that the driver mainly makes use of the on-device interface. Included in the application suite in the Smart iPhone application are hands-free calling, access to the on-device music library and Internet radio, Bing Internet search, a car finder function, and navigation with a “smart touch” feature. The cradle acts as a control unit, charger and microphone with stereo integration for muting during calls.

 

An additional enhancement due later in the year is a Smart drive kit camera, for fitting on the windscreen. The device will be able to transmit pictures of the area in front of the car to the smart drive kit via Wi-Fi and will thereby provide traffic sign recognition functionality including speed limits – a feature offered on a handful of portable navigation devices.

 

The smart drive app for the iPhone can be downloaded from the App Store at a one-off price of €9.99 for the basic version. The navigation upgrade with up-to-date maps costs €49.99 per year. Daimler says its researchers are currently putting the final touches to the smart drive kit camera functions.

 

The Daimler solution for its Smart car line-up is particularly appropriate since Smart cars in Europe are quite often sold without a head unit. In this case, the customer’s iPhone indeed becomes the vehicle’s on-board car radio, hands-free phone, navigation and driver assist system.

 

In contrast, the BMW Mini offering requires an embedded solution which will limit its scalability and upgradability, although the display real estate is substantial and the use of the vehicle’s HMI elements is preferable. The Daimler unit requires the driver to use the iPhone screen as the main interface. All three of these solutions will benefit from voice interfaces.

 

Like the BMW solution, Nokia’s Terminal Mode is intended to hand off HMI responsibility for smartphone functionality to the car. While the solution is promising, and Nokia is working with partners including Alpine, Magneti Marelli and Harman Becker, it is proprietary. As a proprietary solution, Nokia will face challenges to achieve market adoption despite working closely with the Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) coalition of German car makers.

 

Concept vehicles using the Nokia technology were shown at Geneva by Fiat and Valmet Automotive. In fact, the solution shown by Fiat, mounting a Nokia phone on a dash board as a navigation device connected to the Blue&Me system was significant given Fiat’s existing relationship with TomTom for a Blue&Me integrated PND.

 

Nokia’s terminal mode is promising, especially given its anticipated ability to obtain CANbus data for integration with different applications, but as a proprietary solution it is likely to be geographically challenged (ie. Eurocentric). A good example of an equally elegant solution with limited distribution is Novero’s proprietary Bluetooth interface developed for Ford. This solution is at risk of being marginalized once Ford finally decides to bring Sync to Europe.

 

Nokia has the right idea in pushing hard at smartphone integration, but the company would do well to enable standards-based technologies already deployed rather than seeking proprietary solutions. Even in the best of scenarios, the deployment of a proprietary Bluetooth profile on handsets and in cars is a years-long proposition. Daimler’s solution arrives in a matter of months with upgrades and enhancements to come before the end of the year, no doubt. Mini won’t be far behind.


March 7, 2010 17:03 rlanctot
It is very strange indeed to find Toyota at the focal point of a vehicle recall imbroglio after years of immaculate quality ratings and at the peak of its global market share. But the strangeness of the timing is even more severe than that, because it was Toyota’s Prius that was used by QNX and Alcatel-Lucent to promote their “ng connect” LTE Car initiative late last year. The Toyota Prius became the mascot for the ng connect program, popping up in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, in fact anywhere cars or automotive technology were on display. The purpose of the ng connect tour was to spread the word about the onset of 4G LTE technology and what it will mean for connected cars. Of course, the tour was also a showcase for QNX’s vision of both on-board and connected applications. Chief among the roster of on-board applications was a so-called Virtual Mechanic. The virtual mechanic is intended to provide live in-vehicle status reports on a wide range of vehicle systems including brakes, transmission, fuel, etc. with text and graphics. QNX is already the enabling software behind OnStar which, like Ford’s Vehicle Health Report feature, provide drivers with emailed status reports. The difference with virtual mechanic is that the information is live and delivered inside the vehicle. For QNX, the virtual mechanic was merely a concept shown in the context of a wide range of other concepts including in-vehicle displays of remote traffic cameras, access to Internet radio (Pandora), and a host of other location-aware and entertainment oriented applications. But the plot thickens with the emergence of Toyota’s recall nightmare because QNX is a supplier to both GM and Toyota. The virtual mechanic concept appears to belong to QNX, but the possibility for GM or Toyota to adapt the technology for their own marketing and customer relations purposes changes the prospects for this technology considerably. The question now is which manufacturer, Toyota or GM, will be first to enable a virtual mechanic-type application in the car. Or could some other QNX customer leap to the front of the queue: BMW, Peugeot, Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Hyundai? Any one of these companies can look at Toyota’s difficult situation and realize they could be the next car company with software-laden cars producing unexplained, and seemingly unfixable, failures. A challenge for both Toyota and GM in implementing QNX's virtual mechanic will be the limited number of cars both companies sell with full-screen navigation sufficient to graphically display on-board systems. But LCD attach rates are improving for all OEMs in all segments and this application is yet another justification for large display fitment. Suffice it to say that the virtual mechanic is a concept that has arrived just in time to offer a way forward for a damaged auto maker and possibly for the entire industry. Whether QNX’s customers view this prospect from the same perspective remains to be seen. A final note: In this analyst’s opinion, the virtual mechanic will also make a great customer demonstration for car dealers. virt-mech-2.JPG Source:  Strategy Analytics

March 5, 2010 18:03 rlanctot
As an emerging low-cost platform for distributing content and services to passenger vehicles, HD Radio technology has been sneaking up on the automotive and consumer electronics industry for about six years. In that brief time, the company has created a minor sensation in spite of the fact that most of the added value elements of the technology have yet to be deployed and tier one suppliers are only now beginning to master the user interface for automotive implementations. Suffice it to say that iBiquity Digital has succeeded in spite of the limitations of early product executions. But the next wave of product promises more dramatic gains as OEMs bring their interfaces up to speed and hardware makers deliver on the enabling technology for conditional access and other value-added services. IBiquity Digital has overcome the classic chicken-and-egg quandary, simultaneously convincing device makers and broadcasters to take a leap of faith and get on board the HD Radio technology express. In the six years since beginning its campaign, iBiquity Digital has recruited thousands of radio stations and their broadcast company parents to add the HD Radio signals, convinced portable and home electronics hardware makers to bring devices to market, and drawn in more than a dozen car makers to add HD Radio technology to their line-fit options portfolios. Today, in the U.S., there are 1,967 stations broadcasting using HD Radio technology in 250 U.S. markets including 197 of the top 200, reaching 247M listeners. In addition, there are 1,128 multicasts, additional stations within the existing HD Radio bandwidth, with nearly equivalent reach. There are dozens of home and aftermarket automotive systems equipped with HD Radio technology – including an iPhone add-on and an integration on the latest Microsoft Zune. Significantly, many if not most of the aftermarket automotive systems include HD Radio technology as standard whereas competing satellite radio capabilities are typically optional. Within the automotive realm, HD Radio technology has rocketed from being available on two brands and seven models (none of them standard) in MY07 to 16 brands and 87 models (34 of them standard fit) in MY10. The outlook is for 19 brands to be offering HD Radio technology on 122 models in 2012 with 65 of those models offering the technology as standard. By now, most people in the electronics industry are painfully familiar with the extended product life cycles and correspondingly slow decision-making in the automotive industry. In this context, iBiquity’s success has extraordinary. The rapid rise, however, has spawned poorly executed user interfaces with inscrutable and non-intuitive designs. (Doubly unfortunate is the fact that some of the poorest HD Radio interfaces are offered in high-end luxury vehicles.) IBiquity provided limited user interface guidance at its inception, but has since taken more of a position in providing suggested device interfaces. Customers are still left to their own preferences, for the most part, though industry participants will be wise to heed any direction from iBiquity. In the end, if customers cannot fathom the interface the added value will be lost. As HD Radio technology moves into the next phase of its global campaign – and make no mistake that the effort is a global one – it is worth taking a look at the services that are Current services include: Program Service Data – Song, Artist, Album, Genre, Comment, Commercial HD2/HD3 Stations iTunes Tagging Album Art – Station logo, Album art, Advertising Premium Content – Data, Concerts and sports programs, Opt-in Adult content, etc. Conditional Access Additional services in development include: Program guide Music tagging Advertisement tagging As for the scope of iBiquity’s efforts and ambitions they indeed span the globe. Countries that have adopted HD Radio technology with nationwide implementation include Puerto Rico, Panama and the U.S. Countries that have adopted the technology with regional operation include Mexico and Brazil. Countries that are characterized by iBiquity as being in testing with advanced interest include Canada, Argentina, Chile, Romania, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Uruguay, Colombia, Poland and the Czech Republic. The company describes several European countries as having a strong interest in the technology. If iBiquity has had this much success with a limited offering delivered in hastily configured packages, one can only imagine the results that await the company as the second and third generation products arrive with added value services and enhanced interfaces. Among the most remarkable executions demonstrated recently at the Consumer Electronics Show was the HD Radio integration in the MyFordTouch, just a hint of what is to come. 2011_myford_touch_24_hdradio_songtagging_screen1.jpg

March 5, 2010 12:03 rlanctot

TomTom was once the darling of the portable navigation market, charging onto the scene with innovative marketing and product offerings and buoyed by strong market growth driven by Europe’s world-leading embrace of navigation devices. The latest earnings results from both TomTom and chief rival Garmin, however, paint a picture of a hot hardware market segment hitting a plateau.

 

Is it game over for TomTom? How did the company peak so soon? Where has the growth in the PND segment gone? It is my contention that one reason for the current decline in prospects derives from the company’s shift to a closed platform back in 2005 more aligned with rival Garmin.

 

TomTom captured the imagination of consumers and industry observers in the early days of the PND market with innovative solutions that included one of the first major crowd sourcing exercises in the form of its TomTom Live services which included map updates provided by users. The power of the TomTom Live platform was such that TomTom was able to build a more than million-strong user community whose enthusiasm was reflected in both the millions of map updates and corrections they contributed along with the navigation voices they recorded and shared.

 

It’s hard to overstate the power of the kind of customer connection TomTom achieved with the TomTom Live service. In effect, TomTom solved the challenge of map updating years before any other organization in any other segment had come up with an answer - with the exception of server-based solutions. In the most recent earnings call, the company says it intends to offer map updates on a 48-hour cycle, instead of the industry-standard quarterly updates – once again, setting an industry standard.

 

TomTom continued to build momentum – let’s call it “mojo” - by capitalizing on the critical importance of traffic and routing applications adding its HD Traffic and IQ Routes enhancements. The company led the way in connected PNDs claiming 900,000 units sold in the past fiscal year and laying claim to 400,000 combined paying or on-trial-period subscribers, admittedly below company objectives.

 

But something fell apart in the past year. Evidence of the performance shortfall included the inability to successfully convince a sufficient number of consumers to pay 10 Euro/month for traffic data, even if it was demonstrably superior to competing traffic data. But the one-two punch of flattening sales and declining ASPs in 2009 have combined to deflate TomTom’s (and Garmin’s) prospects forcing the company to turn more aggressively toward non-PND sources of revenue including embedded and smartphone-based solutions.

 

Both Garmin and TomTom reported tepid financial results two weeks ago and offered cautious forecasts for flat PND sales in 2010. Both Garmin and TomTom attempted to dismiss to some extent the impact of smartphone-based navigation solutions. TomTom, in particular, claimed the three different navigation platforms – embedded automotive, smartphone and PND – are not “mutually exclusive” and “somehow strengthen each other.”

 

Both Garmin and TomTom are targeting mobile applications with TomTom making its traffic solution available for the iPhone along with an iPhone mounting kit for in-vehicle use – a wise strategy of embracing rather than confronting competition. Both companies are also pursuing automotive opportunities with TomTom’s most recent design wins coming at Renault and Fiat. Interestingly, Fiat showed new TomTom solutions at the Geneva Motor Show while also showing a mobile phone mount concept from Magneti Marelli for Nokia navigation phones.

 

Very much overlooked in TomTom’s run up to its dominant position in the European PND market was the company’s offering of a software developer kit. But the company abandoned the open platform approach in 2005, while driving innovation almost entirely internally along with some targeted acquisitions.

 

TomTom was first in developing a connected user community willing to correct map data and POIs and share favorite routes and voices. These users also demonstrated that there was a market for content that could be downloaded to TomTom devices. Sound familiar? This is exactly the model adopted by most major handset makers in the past year following the wildly successful Apple iPhone.

 

The big difference between these handset makers and TomTom is that smartphones are based on open platforms for which independent software developers can create new applications. It probably isn’t too late for TomTom to change its approach to the market, opening up its platform to third-party content and application developers. This could well be the key to turning around the bleak numbers reported in the most recent quarter.

 

A growing range of new applications from third-party suppliers can add functionality and value to a TomTom device over time, in contrast to the usual perceived decline in value over time of a typical consumer electronic product. Apple, Google and others are demonstrating daily that there is mojo in open platforms. It’s not too late for TomTom to dial in.


February 10, 2010 00:02 rlanctot

While car makers around the world are developing traditional embedded telematics systems for deployment worldwide, a secondary market in embedded (ie. line fit) and aftermarket modules intended to meet local mandates for eCall, vehicle tracking and road charging are proliferating. Mandates in such diverse locations as The Netherlands and Brazil are feeding this frenzy and new suppliers with new solutions are emerging on the scene on a weekly basis.

 

The six most prominent applications driving demand and interest - among suppliers, car makers and service providers – are pay-as-you-drive insurance (PAYD), the European eCall mandate, the Brazilian stolen vehicle recovery mandate, eHorizon map-as-a-sensor offerings, road charging (The Netherlands, France, Germany) and buy-here-pay-here solutions. Each one of these opportunities represents millions of devices to be sold and installed although, interestingly, the service opportunities are more limited with only PAYD, SVR and buy-here-pay-here promising any service revenue. Road charging in The Netherlands alone represents an 8M unit build with 300K-500K units/annually going forward.

 

PAYD is the highest profile opportunity in the industry today with Octo-Telematics leading the way in Europe with more than 1M installed devices in use. Smaller players are multiplying throughout the continent, though, as insurers recognize the opportunity to take customers from competitors, reward their own “best” customers, and gather better data for determining risk. Progressive is the market leader in the U.S., but with competition fierce in the automotive insurance industry, PAYD will be embraced nationwide. Not coincidentally, Octo-Telematics has partnered with Directed Electronics to tackle the U.S. market.

 

After PAYD, the Brazilian mandate for stolen vehicle tracking and vehicle immobilization has attracted as much attention as PAYD with several companies claiming design-in wins. There were some hiccoughs on the way to achieving a nationwide mandate, but the latest indications are that 100% of vehicles produced in Brazil will be obliged to be fitted with tracking devices enabled for vehicle immobilization. The compromise that allows the mandate to move forward leaves the service provisioning to the customer’s discretion.

 

Road charging, an application already widely deployed in the fleet industry, is coming to passenger cars to reduce emissions, traffic, and accident rates. The volumes for road charging will be significant and suppliers are circling.

 

The eHorizon solutions, in module form, offered by Navteq/Magneti Marelli/ST Microelectronics and lately demonstrated by Intermap/Visteon offer to integrate map and road elevation data into advanced driver assistance applications. The volumes here will grow, but the rate will be slow as consumers gradually come to embrace emerging safety systems.

 

Buy-here-pay-here modules used by both new and used car resellers to track and immobilize customers that miss payments is the most well-established of all the module-related opportunities. Players in the industry have recently coalesced around the Payment Assurance Technology Association (http://www.patassociation.com/index.php) to raise the profile of this vital application as a legitimate segment worthy of attention and respect. No doubt demand has never been higher given current economic decisions.

 

Supplier approaches to module mania range from application specific solutions to all-purpose devices not only suitable to multiple uses but remotely configurable and integrated with Website access. ABS T&T, which has partnered with Continental, distributes a multipurpose module for tracking and telematics applications ranging from shipment tracking to stolen vehicle recovery and telematics.

 

NXP offers its ATOP module which it describes as the world’s first single component on board unit (OBU) capable of supporting ITS applications, stolen vehicle tracking, PAYD applications, last mile tracking (automotive black box) as well as enabling ADAS systems. The device can be configured with a wide range of connectivity including GSM, CAN, near field communication (NFC, USB, and GPS and also enables downloadable applications.

 

Whether purpose-built or all-purpose, module makers are proliferating spurred on by government mandates as well as new and existing commercial opportunities from both the consumer telematics and fleet market segments. This is precisely the right stimulus package for an automotive industry on the mend.


February 3, 2010 21:02 rlanctot
With the statement: "Consumers want their devices to work together, so it is inevitable that single-vendor connected solutions will lose their interest," Pioneer's senior managing director, Akira Haeno has shoved a stake into the ground for the company's Platform for Aggregation of Internet Services (PAIS). Pioneer says this new content and services platform, set to arrive formally in mid-2010, will provide a seamless home/car/work experience for different content sources and services in conjunction with any connected device. The announcement opens doors to new market opportunities for Pioneer Electronics while also opening the company up to a new range of competitors that are already aggregating content and services. But Haeno's declaration is significant considering there are several connected devices that are otherwise closed to different content and service sources. A few that come to mind are devices from TomTom, Garmin, OnStar, and Apple. The ability to bridge all of these platforms will give Pioneer an advantage against rivals such as Airbiquity, Hughes Telematics or even UIEvolution. The PAIS platform presents open-standard interfaces for voice, navigation and maps, local search, social networking, music and radio and video and television, the company says. The interfaces enable the addition of new content and services without the added investment in proprietary solutions. Pioneer's solution is a direct challenge to the strategies of competing Tier Ones such as Visteon, Continental, and Denso among others, all of whom are offering to enable a wide range of applications. Even real-time operating system supplier QNX has had to race to deliver new application interfaces in support of its technology already deployed in 12+ vehicles. The Pioneer solution is based on Windows for Automotive and incorporates VoiceBox technology but is otherwise technology agnostic. The challenge for the content and service aggregators will be to demonstrate that their solutions are truly able to seamlessly and easily deploy new applications. Ford Motor Company and Mercedes-Benz are the first to reach the market with systems sufficiently flexible to deploy additional applications. Ford relies on smartphone connectivity, while Mercedes combines smartphone connectivity with a sophisticated back-end provided by Hughes Telematics. Ford has made a software development kit available, as has Continental for its Android-based systems. Mercedes has not released an SDK but company executives envision a day when Mercedes customers could create widgets or full applications. Competitors may see a tough choice in choosing to support or leverage the Pioneer platform, but the company is early enough to market to stake a credible claim and the solution will no doubt support Pioneer's own connected offerings.

February 3, 2010 17:02 rlanctot
Gewi, an 18-year-old German-based company with an off-the-shelf software solution for managing roadway information for DOTs, car makers and device manufacturers, has entered the U.S. market and introduced TIC3, the latest version of its software. The company is known for its TIC (Traveller Information Center) software platform used to collect, create, store, monitor, view, manage and distribute information such as traffic data from a wide range of sources. The company's solution is designed to be used as an out-of-box solution or as a server-based or hosted service delivery platform. The TIC platform is capable of producing outputs in any required format, including including RDS-TMC, TPEG, radio and TV traffic reports, PDA, and web. Gewi clients include Nokia, BMW, Navteq and Daimler. While the company's software is in use in more than 100 projects worldwide, it has most recently been manifesting itself in embedded and portable devices for processing traffic information. But the Gewi platform is content agnostic, so the next phase for Gewi will likely be the integration of data sources such as gasoline pricing, hotel reservations and anything else related to movement on a roadway. The flexibility of the Gewi platform is likely to put the company into competition with companies such as Airbiquity, Google and even Hughes Telematics. These potential competitors have already demonstrated the power of a flexible back end to enable their clients to deploy new content and applications. It is possible that companies might even choose to make use of Gewi's software. Whether or not OEMs turn to Gewi to process other types of non-traffic data, the company is well positioned to enable new traffic applications from companies such as TrafficLand, Aha Mobile, Waze and TrafficTalk. Whether the data source is traffic cameras or crowd-sourced traffic information, Gewi's software can help process and distribute the new data sources in an integrated manner, allowing customers to prioritize different data feeds depending on circumstances. Gewi may well find itself partnering with Tier One suppliers such as Visteon, Continental and Denso to enable the range of applications envisioned by these organizations (gas pricing, parking, movie times) as well as to enable application stores. Precisely how Gewi will fit into the changing automotive software landscape remains to be seen. The company's solutions are hardware and operating system agnostic and command a substantial market position in the critical traffic information space. The challenge for Gewi will be to see if it can build on this essential piece of the in-vehicle content portfolio to broaden its reach.

January 20, 2010 17:01 rlanctot

The single most important automotive product introduction at CES was MyFordTouch and the related software developer kit (SDK) and application programming interfaces. Competing OEMs and their suppliers are scrambling to respond to Ford's strategy which is only manifesting today what

has been in development for five years or more. In the end, Ford has created and demonstrated an ability to design and deploy new features and functions at an unheardof pace, unmatched in the industry.

 

Ford has finally solved the automotive industry solution development logjam and has further opened up its platform for the creation of even more new applications by third parties. This "long-tail" strategy has created a competitive environment where the OEM (or supplier) that enables or is capable of enabling the most applications will win. This does not mean that every car buyer uses every application, but it does mean that there will likely be at least a few applications that every driver will want to try - hence the long tail. It also means great aftermarket opportunities, marketing angles, and customer touch opportunities for Ford and its dealer network - "come down and get your free apps!"

The Ford announcement greatly overshadowed Kia's Uvo launch, which represented a significant advance on the original Ford Sync and is based on an updated Microsoft MS Auto platform.  Similarly, the OnStar Volt smartphone integration announcement is a mere one-off feature introduction for a single expensive vehicle due much later in 2010. Though the vehicle charge status application is necessary for the electric vehicle segment, t is not a mass market concept and it was originally shown a year ago. It does show OnStar integrating smartphone funtionality for the first time, but it is not the harbinger of an open platform from OnStar.

 

The mbrace announcement from Mercedes late last year was more important because Mercedes will be launching additional smartphone applications thanks to the Hughes Telematics back-end architecture. OnStar lacks the flexibility to deploy a wide range of applications in the same manner as Mercedes.

The influence of Ford's architectural decisions is reflected in the movement of Tier Ones to enable a wide range of applications across multiple platforms and operating systems. Some examples include QNX's ConnectedCar, Continental's AutoLinQ, Airbiquity's aqLink, Visteon's connectivity platform and Denso's BlueHarmony. Continental's choice of the Android operating system, in particular, reflects the objective of opening the automotive environment to a wider software developer community. Continental, in particular, announced plans for its own Androi-based SDK for Q1 and an application store due in the second half of 2010.

 

Even telematics service providers - Airbiquity, Cross Country/ATX, Hughes, and WirelessCar - are seeking to enable and support a much wider range of applications ranging from news, weather and sports content delivery to traffic camera display and Internet radio. And social networking applications such as Twitter, FaceBook and myspace are being enabled for embedded in-vehicle use as well.

OEMs will do well to choose hardware, software, content, operating system and service providers that are capable of rapid deployment of voice and connectivity-enabled features and functions in a safe manner via a controlled vetting process. Ford is showing the way, but there will be multiple paths to this objective.


January 15, 2010 10:01 rlanctot
Denso privately showed an Internet connectivity platform called Blue Harmony at the Detroit Auto Show this week. Despite its name which suggests an emphasis on Bluetooth, Blue Harmony is actually built around a 3G cellular connection enhanced with Wi-Fi for internal and external communication and Bluetooth. It is designed as a center stack solution with full-size, touch-screen display for navigation and other functions. The announcement shows Denso offering its own all-purpose alternative to similar solutions from Continental and Visteon. Blue Harmony's introduction reflects the ongoing efforts being made by Tier One suppliers to provide for smartphone integration and application downloads. Blue Harmony is designed to function with a variety of hardware and software configurations. The positioning of the system is clearly targeted at higher end applications as opposed to simple Bluetooth connectivity offerings such as Ford's Sync. Denso is being specific about the broad range of functionality enabled by the Blue Harmony system, but is being deliberately ambiguous about specific component partners and HMI, leaving these choices to potential customers. The stated objective of Blue Harmony is to enable connected consumer applications including access to music, news and traffic information while enabling safe implementation of social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter. Flexibility and customizability are critical elements of the system including the ability to download applications capable of enabling services such as Pandora Internet radio. OEMs will be able to target different consumer segments with customized user interfaces or different application portfolios. Blue Harmony will also deploy a wide range of voice-enabled applications such as news readers or messaging. And in addition to Wi-Fi technology, the system also incorporates vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability.

January 13, 2010 10:01 rlanctot
Motorola brought an impressive new connected portable navigation device to the Consumer Electronics Show last week. It is the first unit built around Airbiquity's in-band modem technology which enables a variety of first-time connectivity features on a PND. And the user interface offers some unique elements worthy of emulation by competitors as well. In the end, however, despite having conquered technology challenges in bringing this innovative device to market, the greatest challenge facing Motorola when the product becomes available later this year, will be gaining shelfspace position at retail in a consolidating segment. The first-time list of features on the Motonav TN700 includes a wide-screen 5.1" display, Bing411 voice-enabled business search, Caller ID for announcing in-bound callers, a scrolling list of POIs that appears on the left hand side of the screen as they are passed by the device, speed camera alerts from Cobra (a capability beginning to show up on other new PNDs), and direct entry of addresses (ie. street number, name, etc.). The Airbiquity in-band modem enables the inclusion of a bundle of services called MotoExtras - free for the first 3 months - including weather, gas prices, flight status, etc. Google Search is also accessible for locating POIs. Traffic data is provided by Navteq free for the life of the device as part of Traffic.com's ad-supported business model. The price of the device has not yet been set, but will likely be in the mid- to high-end range. The speed camera data and MotoExtras will be subject to annual subscription and bundling offers both yet to be determined. The real challenge for Motorola, though, will be gaining a foothold in retail stores where Garmin and TomTom have been adding SKUs to their assortments pushing aside second and third tier brands. According to one industry assessment, the two brands account for 63% of all retail shelfspace, up from 55% a year ago. Motorola currently has 1.8% share in the U.S. Further complicating Motorola's retail ambitions is the low-end orientation of the PND market, with as much as 75%-80% of sales coming from entry-level models, the expected re-emergence of Magellan and Mio later this spring, and Best Buy's ongoing ambitions in the connected PND segment. Related content: Connected PND Database: http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=5213 Automotive and Portable Navigation Forecast: http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=4785